Imagery is a figurative comparison between two things which have no literal connection.
By comparing things that are not alike, writers use imagery to create a poetic or descriptive impact. Effective imagery works by allowing readers to compare something they are familiar with to something less familiar.
There are two very easily recognised forms of imagery: similes and metaphors.
Similes are simple comparisons and usually contain the word 'like' or 'as'
"As cool as a cucumber" describes someone who is calm and composed.
"Like a fox in a henhouse" describes dangerous carnage.
Metaphors involve comparison like similes but they do so more subtly than similes. Where a simile tends to describe a comparison by making a simple association like the examples above, a metaphor suggests the comparison without stating it explicitly.
"A trickle of aid to sub-Saharan countries came from the West last year instead of the necessary flood" illustrates that a natural force like water can be used to describe the way that third-world countries are provided with aid. The image relies on the 'trickle' being a slow flow of water inadequate for the purpose of useful aid to the sub-Saharan countries, contrasted with 'flood'; the large volume of support actually needed.
Metaphors, similes, personification... test yourself on these and many more English terms with this hazardous game!
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